TEDxAUCollege | Why going for a run might actually improve your GPA
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Why going for a run might actually improve your GPA

-Isabel Retterath

You have spent the past few hours studying and you feel like going for a run. However, you’ve only written half of the paper that’s due at midnight, so continuing studying seems more responsible. After all, going for a run can wait until tomorrow.

The situation described above probably sounds familiar to most college students. In fact, it’s even in line with a long-term trend: the average time individuals spend exercising each day has been declining for years. But what would you do if you knew that exercising might be beneficial to your grades?

The idea that exercise improves academic seems appealing because it would mean that students could go to the gym and still do well on tests, and it is backed by research as well. Recently, a group of Norwegian researchers has examined the relationship between physical activity and academic performance. This topic has been studied many times before, but what makes this particular experiment rather interesting is that it involved encouraging students to go to the gym and checking for changes in their grades afterwards. The researchers came up with this protocol to cancel out the variable of self-discipline, which is often being overlooked, but nevertheless plays an important role in determining students’ grades. Namely, students with a lot of self-discipline are more likely to push themselves to regularly go to the gym. They will probably also have an easier time getting themselves to study hard for tests, which can result in higher grades. After incorporating self-discipline in their experiment, the researchers found that in general, students with high grades exercise more often than students with lower academic results.

Neurobiology offers a possible explanation towards the relation between physical activity and academic performance. According to Anika Singh, who analyses exercise and academic achievements of children at VU university, the positive correlation might be caused by the increased blood flow to the brain that occurs during sports and physical activity. This increased amount of blood means that there are more oxygen molecules and nutrients transported to the brain, which is beneficial to one’s concentration, memory, and the ability to suppress stimuli from the environment. Nonetheless, Singh emphasizes the importance of researching other possible factors, as this relation doesn’t necessarily prove that exercise automatically leads to higher grades. For instance, the educational degree of students’ parents might play a role as well.

The association between physical activity and academic performance remains an exciting field of research, because it might offer students a way to improve their grades without extra study time. Although researchers highlight that there remains a lot to explore, there is a lot of evidence that links exercise with a higher GPA. So next time you feel like you deserve a break, put your textbooks away for a bit and go for a run. Then, maybe, you’ll be positively surprised by your finals’ grades.